It’s hard to find another international institution that the College of Food, Agriculture, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES) at The Ohio State University (OSU) has been collaborating with longer than Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) in India.
The relationship between the two universities, which dates back to the 1950’s when OSU worked with USAID and the Ford Foundation to build land-grant institutions of higher agricultural education in northern India, has taken on a new role as OSU, through the Office of International Programs in Agriculture (IPA), transitions its relationship with PAU to collaboratively provide agricultural development inputs to Egerton University Faculty of Agriculture in Kenya.
In 2012 CFAES faculty and administrators from OSU, along with colleagues at PAU, initiated a project managed by the United States Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service focused on providing technical assistance to Egerton University in Njoro, Kenya, with the intent to strengthen the institution’s capacity to improve food security in the East African nation of 44 million people.
The project officially became known as the Trilateral Partnership for Food Security because of the collective inputs from OSU, PAU, and Egerton, and is advancing towards meeting a number of objectives identified at the program’s inception through collaborative strategic planning.
One of these overall objectives was to create a strategic plan for Egerton to promote outreach to stakeholders in the agribusiness sector and train its graduate students on the importance of developing private sector linkages.
Last month the first training workshop was held at Egerton designed to instruct students and community agribusiness leaders how to develop effective business plans for small and medium enterprise (SME’s) in Nakuru County. Led by Mark Erbaugh, Director of IPA, and David Hahn, Professor Emeritus in the Department of Agricultural and Development Economics, the program facilitated nearly 50 participants – 33 Egerton graduate students and 15 business leaders in Nakuru County – to work in small groups developing a business plan from a provided template.
“Understanding competition is one of the most important ingredients for writing an effective business plan,” explained Dr. Sandeep Kapur, Director of the School of Business studies at Punjab Agricultural University, who spoke addressed participants via video-conferencing on the key elements of competitive analysis.
Especially valuable to the participants was the use of a local business, ABC Feeds, as a case study for devising their own business plans. ABC Super Feeds, LTD, a livestock feed supplier that employs 17 local Kenyans and currently serves 38 of Kenya’s 47 counties, worked with instructors prior to the workshop to provide them with information related to market size, production costs, advertising strategies, and personnel requirements for their enterprise, which was then given to workshop participants as a reference for building their own business plan. Dr. Patience Mshenga, Associate Professor in the Department of Agricultural Economics and Agribusiness Management at Egerton University, led the discussion on business plan development using the ABC Feeds as a case study to illustrate various components of a business plan.
Not only is the workshop expected to instill in prospective entrepreneurs practical skills pertaining to business management, but the final completed business plans and the certificate of completion presented to participants at the end of the workshop will serve as documentation for those interested in securing a loan to finance a new business.
“Farmers and other small businesses in Kenya have great difficulty obtaining finances to grow and expand,” explains Dr. Hahn. “Our training prepared the students to help develop business plans for sound decision-making and to secure bank loans”.
Such outreach is pivotal considering that upwards of 75% of Kenyans are involved in small-holder agriculture, and facilitating connections between students and private sector organizations in the areas of agriculture will go a long way in providing greater employment opportunities for Kenyan youth living in a country where private sector agribusiness is expected to expand and play a vital role in improving agricultural production.
“CFAES has a long history of working with Colleges of Agriculture in different countries to improve their linkages with the private sector agribusiness,” says Dr. Erbaugh, explaining further that public sector employment opportunities for new college graduates is stagnant and the way forward for these institutions is to provide training that equips students to work in or with the private sector.
“Providing outreach to private sector agribusinesses is a tremendous way for these universities to remain relevant and assist in transforming simple agricultural systems into more dynamic commercial systems.”
The three institutions have no plans of slowing down their programming, as instructors have already begun brainstorming on how future workshops can be organized and enhanced. Potential options include offering the same curriculum to a new cohort of students and business-owners, offering advanced workshops with an emphasis on financial management, and/or having students meet regularly with their workshop business partners to modify and update business plans after their first iteration of the workshop.